There is but one question to ask now that the sometimes-ridiculous, ever-eventful Rafa Marquez era is history around Red Bull Arena: What took so freakin’ long?
The Red Bulls announced the release of their controversial defender Thursday morning.
The team’s record with Marquez on the field, 19-9-16, does speak well of his talents. We should expect as much from a man making $4.6 million this year; his salary was Major League Soccer’s second-highest in 2012 after Red Bulls teammate Thierry Henry.
But anyone who watched Marquez play, anyone who witnessed his self-centered shenanigans, anyone who winced at his disrespectful comments about teammates, could not help but wonder if the former Mexican international’s presence was not undermining the team’s larger pursuits?
It seems like a reasonable supposition that they were. (And you wonder what stories might tumble out of the Red Bulls locker room now that Marquez is gone?)
Recent reports have circulated this year that Marquez, 33, is close to signing a two-year deal with Leon in Mexico. With Thursday’s release, he is free to do so.
From Red Bulls Sporting Director Andy Roxburgh:
This decision has been made in the best interests of both parties concerned. Rafa has accomplished a great deal during his career and is a top quality player. We want to thank him for his service to the Red Bulls and wish him the best of luck in the next stage of his career.”
Henry, by the way, consistently defended Marquez. The French attacker insisted the team needed Marquez’s passing and sophisticated distribution out of the back for the best chances of claiming an MLS title. Which may have been true; we’ll never know. Because in an action that fairly typified Marquez’s messy time with the organization, the former Barcelona man got himself thrown out the team’s close, second-leg playoff contest against D.C. United.
Sixteen teams remain in the battle to clinch the Premier League’s first European place of next season’s tournament, and we have some tremendous battles on tap for Tuesday and Wednesday in the EFL Cup (formerly the League Cup).
Today we focus on the 24 hours ahead of us, focusing on Tuesday’s five matches and allowing the Manchester Derby, West Ham-Chelsea, and Southampton-Sunderland to percolate a bit.
[ MORE: Finland’s “Leicester” gets it done ]
That’s not to say we don’t have a pair of giants dueling on Tuesday. Liverpool is three wins away from a return to the final, where the Reds fell in penalties last season. Standing in their way is Tottenham Hotspur, a deep squad which won’t have to worry much about a quick turnaround from Saturday.
That said, the Reds didn’t have to play at all last week, while this will be Spurs third match in a week. Spurs have been to the EFL Cup final thrice since 2008, and one of two teams (Chelsea) to make three finals this decade. Liverpool will start Simon Mignolet between the sticks.
The remaining four EFL Cup matches include at least one team outside the Premier League.
— Arsenal will host USMNT midfielder Danny Williams and Reading.
— Hull City is off to Ashton Gate to face Bristol City.
— Newcastle United is leading the Championship, and will get a visit from Preston North End in the first of two matches between the two sides this week.
— Norwich City will pay a visit to Elland Road and Garry Monk‘s Leeds United.
FC Dallas has two jewels of its triple crown all set, having claimed the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and the Supporters’ Shield.
One of the key reasons the club was able to sustain its pace this season was Mauro Diaz, 25, who shone even as Fabian Castillo shockingly left the club before the stretch run.
[ MORE: MLS Cup predictions ]
A River Plate product, Diaz gave FCD seven goals and 15 assists over 32 appearances before tearing an achilles tendon last week.
Diaz underwent season-ending surgery, but his teammates made sure he was a part of the champagne celebration by heading to his very nice-looking house for an early morning visit.
[ MORE: Pre-playoff power rankings ]
There was some eye-popping moments in the Premier League this weekend, yet still very little debate who shone brightest.
Stoke City’s Xherdan Shaqiri scored a pair of Goal of the Month competitors in the same day in the Potters’ 2-0 win at Hull City on Monday.
[ MORE: MLS Cup predictions ]
The first was a curling wonder from distance, while the second came from a bit closer as the big-calfed Swiss attacker bamboozled the Hull wall and goalkeeper.
The Potters are up to 16th in the Premier League table with nine points.
HELSINKI (AP) Fans of IFK Mariehamn have gathered in the main square of the remote Finnish town to celebrate their team’s surprise league title.
“I feel very proud,” the club’s managing director, Peter Mattsson, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on Monday, adding that “thousands” were expected to turn up for the party.
Watched by more than 4,000, Mariehamn clinched the Finnish title on Sunday with a 2-1 home victory over Ilves, from the industrial city of Tampere.
[ MORE: Full MLS Cup bracket ]
Mariehamn held off 11 other teams, including the traditionally strong Helsinki club, HJK, and defending champion SJK from western Finland. It ended three points clear of second-placed HJK for its first league title.
Local media dubbed the team “Leicester” after the surprise English Premier League champions last season.
Mariehamn, which has a population of 11,500, is the capital of the Aland islands off the southwestern Finnish coast